Notable Phelps Family Members
George M. Phelps, Master Telegraph Instrument Maker and Inventor
George May Phelps was born on 10 Nov 1820 in Watervliet, New York. He began his adult life working for his uncle Jonas H. Phelps as an apprentice machinist in Troy, New York.
At age 30 in 1850 he set up his first shop on the corner of First and Adams St. in Troy, N. Y., in company with William Gurley, still in operation today as Gurly Precision Instruments. Among Phelps' first patents were designs for speed governors. During the 1840s, he observed the growth of the telegraph and the inventions of Samuel Morse. There was a shortage of telegraph instruments in that day and considerable competition between conventional Morse technology and newer printing telegraph systems.
|George M. Phelps, Master Telegraph Instrument Maker and Inventor|
The best printing telegraph of that day was built by Royal E. House. It was a complicated instrument and could only be built rather slowly in one factory in New York City. The company learned of George Phelps' mechanical aptitude and asked him to build their instrument for them.
In 1855, a new Hughes instrument was introduced, though it had some drawbacks. A new company was founded—the future AT&T Company —which bought the rights to the Hughes machine. They turned it over to George M. Phelps and asked him to fix some of the problems.
He made two significant improvements: a device that resynced both the transmitting and receiving printer after each character was completed, and he combined both drive mechanisms and shortened the time it took for characters to reach the platen.
For a complete story of George M. Phelps and his accomplishments, see George M. Phelps, Troy's Forgotten Inventor.